From Dangermouse To Duckula: The History Of Cosgrove Hall Films
As a child, did you dote on Duckula? Were you deranged for Danger Mouse? If so, you owe it all to one talented animation company, and that was Cosgrove Hall Films.
Responsible for some of the greatest children’s hits of the 80s and 90s, Cosgrove Hall was a local Manchester firm that took on the world. Below, we discuss their legacy in a must-know guide.
Cosgrove Hall Films Founders Mark and Brian
Cosgrove Hall started in 1969 when Brian Cosgrove began working on a series of public information films. However, the magic really began to happen when he was approached by his student friend and former colleague, Mark Hall. Together, they produced a number of animated shorts for Cosgrove’s own company Stop Frame.
Their first animated series was The Magic Ball, and was filmed in Cosgrove’s shed between 1971 and 1972. However, their first huge success was Noddy, in 1975. An animated adaption of the famous Enid Blyton books, Noddy would go on to become a staple preschool cartoon classic.
While Stop Frame ceased production in 1975, the pair’s work had not gone unnoticed. They had been producing animated shorts for the children’s television series Rainbow. Commissioners Thames Television saw their potential and decided to set them up as one of their subsidiaries.
This arm of Thames TV was named Cosgrove Hall. It would produce some of the finest children’s television series of the next 30 years. Their first production was titled Chorlton and the Wheelies, a quaint animation about a dragon that was named after a Manchester suburb.
Danger Mouse was the first major success from the studio. Using tropes taken from spy franchises such as the Persuaders and James Bond, Danger Mouse meant business. This eye patched white mouse, along with his sidekick Penfold, went out to save the world routinely from the evil Baron Greenback and his henchmen.
Some extremely talented voice actors were brought in to work on the show, including David Jason and British comedy actor Terry Jones. It has the accolade of being the first show to be aired on Nickelodeon.
The two creators aimed to make the show as crazy as they possibly could, and it seemed to work. Cosgrove was quoted as saying “We reckoned a secret service mouse foiling the plans of an evil toad – Baron Silas Greenback – was suitably ridiculous.” That ridiculous streak managed to get the show a viewing figure of around 24 million worldwide.
One utterley absurd character who appeared in the show would even get his own spin off series. That was Count Duckula.
After airing Danger Mouse, Nickelodeon approached Cosgrove Hall looking to co-produce a series. They chose Count Duckula as their protagonist, who had previously appeared in the Danger Mouse cartoon.
It was suggested that he should be a vegetarian, adding to the absurd nature of his vampiric lifestyle. In fact, just as Duckula himself had been a spin-off, two villains from the series, Victor & Hugo, would even get their own program.
Mergers & Takeovers
As the company was now an arm of Thames Television, it became a property that was moved around during numerous takeovers. It finally settled with the ITV programming group. In 2008, all but four members of the company would be made redundant and Cosgrove Hall was moved in-house to ITV studios.
After a review in 2009, it was decided that the company was not financially viable. Its 30 year home in Chorlton, Manchester, was sold off, demolished and the land used for retirement flats.
Cosgrove Hall Films Archive
In 2011, at the age of 75, Mark Hall died of cancer. He left behind a treasure trove of British animation. Brian Cosgrove is currently a chief executive at CHF Entertainment.
Cosgrove Hall itself lives on in the amazing Cosgrove Hall Films Archive. This collects a number of archive characters, excerpts, and footage in a physical and online museum.